In a study found in the March 28 online issue of Cancer, a journal published by the American Cancer Society, a study done in Japan found that patients with terminal cancer live longer when cared for at home.
Dr. Jun Hamano, the lead researcher at the University of Tsukuba in Japan, conducted the study on approximately 2,000 terminal cancer patients. Approximately 1,500 patients received hospital-based palliative care and about 500 received home-based palliative care. Palliative care does not have the goal or curing a person, but rather comforting the person or managing their symptoms. The study found that those that received palliative care at home lived considerably longer than those who received care in a hospital setting.
What this means for the healthcare industry
This is important because sometimes, people with terminal cancer would rather die in the comfort of their home, but fear that the medical care provided in the home will be less comprehensive than the care received in a hospital, at which will lead to them dying sooner. However, the study showed that those who were the sickest, with weeks or just days to live, lived longer if they chose to die at home.
For those patients that the doctors predicted they had just days to live, those who chose home care gained an additional 4 days. For patients predicted to die in weeks, they gained an additional 7 days. This is all despite the fact that patients receiving home-based palliative care were less likely to be given IV fluids or antibiotics. This leads researchers to believe that there is a point in which life-prolonging treatment can be counterproductive, or may even hasten death.
This study is not to imply that home-based palliative care is always preferable to a hospital setting, rather that the choice is the central factor. The results of this study suggest that doctors should not hesitate to allow terminal cancer patients to receive home-based palliative care. Because home care is so expensive, and may not be financially feasible for some patients, this study can also be used to urge policy makers to help provide better financial options or resources so that the best care can be provided.